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Six Great Early Season Ice Climbing Tips

From learning about avalanches to training early, here's how to prepare for ice season

Ice climbing season is right around the corner. This is a good time of year to get you and your gear ready for the season. Here are six ice climbing tips from Kris Irwin, owner and guide Rockies Ice Specialists in Banff.

Start hanging off of your tools

Anywhere – at home, the gym, at the dry tooling crag. Now is the time to get your climbing muscles conditioned to the movement of ice climbing. Deadhangs, tool pull-ups, dry tooling, will all go along way in building the endurance and grip strength you’ll need to hang on for those long pitches this winter. Don’t neglect the opposing muscles, push-ups, sit-ups, and core strength exercises will help prevent a muscle imbalance and possible injury.

Tick List

Start a list of climbs, grades, or objectives you’d like to complete this winter. Perusing your local guide books will help build the psych and keep you motivated to train and put time aside to meet your goals or climb your dream climb.

Learn about Avalanches

If you climb in avalanche terrain, you need to learn about avalanches. Take a course with a reputable company or instructor that’s approved by Avalanche Canada – AST 1 (Avalanche Skills Training 1) is a good start.

Sharpen your Bits

Look over all your dull points from last years abuse. With a delicate touch, take the file to your picks and crampon points and bring them back to life, or better yet replace them with new ones. As for screws, removing small burs with a file will work but for a big job I’d take them to someone who knows what they’re doing.


It’s simple, get fit. Improving your fitness is a must for any climber wanting break through physical barriers. There are numerous ways to get your heart rate up so pick something you enjoy doing and start sweating. When the ice does form up, being fit will also help long approaches seem less arduous.

Take a Course

There are numerous companies offering instructional courses, camps, workshops, and guided ascents for beginners and experienced climbers. If you’re open to learning from professionals, look for an instructor or guiding company with ACMG Association of Canadian Mountain Guides credentials.


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@dmhoweller working on his splits as he rappels the ice climb Saddam’s Insane in Kananaskis. #iceclimbingimages

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